“The Camera” [short film]

A colleague of mine produced this using minimal equipment, existing props and sets, natural lighting, and even his sister as the star! That said, for a film created from the mine of one guy and almost no budget, the story and effect is powerful. I’ve watched a couple times and it still gives me chills at the end. Some amazing talent to have thought up, filmed, edited, and scored this short. Enjoy!

The new “Scale of the Universe” interactive animation – the best way to get perspective on life

If you need to gain some perspective on life, check out the Scale of the Universe 2, an updated interactive animation first published in 2010. The new version includes information on many of the featured elements. Starting at a common reference point – the size of an average human being – the slider lets you zoom waaaay out to see, for example, the largest galaxies photographed by Hubble and waaaay in to see, for instance, the smallest particles known (or hypothesized) by theoretical physicists.

Lest you think that this amazing animation is a big-budget product from some science-loving organization, think again. According to ABC News:

“Scale of the Universe 2″ was created by Cary Huang, a 14-year-old ninth grader from Moraga, Calif., with technical help from his twin brother Michael…”My seventh grade science teacher showed us a size comparison video on cells, and I thought it was fascinating. I decided to make my own interactive version that included a much larger range of sizes,” said Cary in an email forwarded by his mother. “It was not a school project — just for fun. However, my science teacher loved it so much she showed [it] to the class! My brother, Michael, helped me put it on the internet.”…Cary said he worked on the project, on and off, for a year and a half, getting information from Wikipedia and astronomy books.

Nice job, guys!

Click the image to start exploring the universe!

Netflix couldn’t possibly screw up any more…oh wait, it just did

I want to like Netflix. I’ve been a loyal customer since 2002, but they’re making it hard to like them these days.

When the company announced the price hike earlier this year, I balked like every other customer. Not because I don’t want to pay more (I don’t) – I realize there are economic reasons behind the decision – but because the company no longer seems to care about its customers wants. The rate increase forced me to drop from three to two DVDs a month to maintain our budget; no big deal. But like so many others, it really forced me to consider staying with Netflix or finding alternatives.

Which is what Netflix still has going for it – viable alternatives simply don’t exist. Amazon streaming doesn’t have as mature a catalog and costs more. Redbox still requires you to leave the house and hope a movie you want is available.

And that’s where Netflix had the model nailed: The queueby-mail-without-late-fees, and streaming features at its core are what made Netflix pure gold in a media-consumption service. I can set up a list of movies that I want to watch, wait for them to come in the mailbox, then hold on to them for as long as it took me to watch or re-watch them. In some cases, I could watch them instantly on my computer, TV, iPod, or Android devices. These features are starting to flag, however.

I remember years ago getting regular emails from Netflix happily announcing price decreases. Then came messages about the new streaming services, and Blu-ray disc availability. But every message I’ve gotten recently from (or about) Netflix has been bad news. Monthly rate increases. No more Starz streaming movies. Just today, I received an email from Netflix in which Reed Hastings announced that the DVD service would now be named “Quixster” (ugh) while “Netflix” would refer to the non-integrated streaming service. Two services. Two credit card charges. No integration.

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to qwikster.com to access their DVD queues and choose movies…A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated.

Apparently, the folks at Netflix don’t understand the mind of their customer. I don’t care if a movie is streaming or DVD, I just want to put on a managed list and watch it, sooner than later if possible. If I have to manage two separate queues, that simply requires too much of my time and it will no longer offer me the value it once did.

And at 14 years old, the Netflix DVD service hasn’t changed much; truthfully, it doesn’t really need to. With the focus on streaming, however, that service needs to mature in some very critical ways to convince customers like me to stay. And, with their unsurprising recent earning report that showed a huge dip in membership, I’m not alone.

For example:

  • Let’s face it, the streaming library still sucks compared to the DVD availability.
  • Streaming titles are often mediocre or poor quality on an HDTV.
  • Licensing deals for streaming titles is flaky, causing titles to disappear and reappear like whack-a-moles.
  • Netflix is opaque with its customers about which streaming titles are about to disappear; without warning, titles are just – poof! – gone. Services like Feedfliks helpfully fill in this gap, but shouldn’t have to.
  • My instant queue is often reordered randomly – system bugs like this are inexcusable.
  • The ability to add and remove specific seasons of a television show to my queue.
I’m interested to see what the two-website split will look like, but I’m increasingly preparing myself and my family to dump the service altogether. It’ll be a difficult transition, but I’m starting to doubt the company is going in the right direction with its customers.

Use Feedfliks for advanced Netflix account management

If you’re not a Netflix subscriber, you either don’t watch movies or you enjoy endlessly browsing the local movie rental place for DVDs (that ultimately aren’t available) and racing the clock to return it before late fees start to accrue. For the rest of us, the mail-order and streaming movie service has risen to become a staple of media consumption.

Yet, despite an impressive DVD collection, an improving streaming catalog available from TiVo DVRs, many Blu-ray players, and iOS devices, the options for managing your media queue are underwhelming.

Enter Feedfliks, a companion site that fills in nearly all of the gaps of account management. Offering a full-featured free account option as well as a paid premium account option, Feedfliks gives you a data-rick peek into your account as well as email alerts.

Your dashboard lets you see if you’re getting the most out of your account. This can help you decide to go with a cheaper account (2 versus 3 discs out at a time, for example) or encourage you to return your DVDs more quickly.

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